With the dreaded memory of 17 road deaths so far this year and the countless skirmishes recorded daily, news of coming legislative changes to make the Road Safety Act enforceable should be applauded and embraced.
The move is long overdue and we are holding Transport Minister Michael Lashley to his word that the proposed amendments, which are likely to go before Parliament after the presentation of the national Budget next week, will be approved within another two months.
Said Lashley, “We should be able to debate in Parliament and have it passed, maybe June or July. I have signed off on the ministry’s position and accepted the provisions . . . . We just have to get it on the Parliament’s timetable.”
The changes set out a variety of measures to boost road safety. Chief among these are laws to govern breathalyzer and drug testing as well as a ban on the use of mobile devices while driving.
We anxiously await the other initiatives but hope they will include better street lighting, enhanced pedestrian crossings, lower speed limits on major thoroughfares and stricter enforcement of traffic rules.
This kind of intervention is urgently needed with our country already surpassing the ten road fatalities recorded in 2016.
Most noteworthy is the timing.
The island is gearing up for the revelry of Crop Over when fun, rum and partying just flow and most surrender their inhibitions.
It has become so routine at this time of year for calls to be made by officials and the road safety association to reduce speed and adhere to the rules, but it seems that motorists have become numb to the dreadful tragedies that will inevitably occur with lawlessness. Drunk driving is not a small offence; it is a serious crime with devastating consequences. And, as such, those found to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which can impair their judgement, deserve very serious punishment,
The introduction of the breathalyzer test long championed by Pastor Victor Roach and the tireless president of the Road Safety Association Sharmane Roland-Bowen is essential if we are going to make our roads safer by cracking down on those who drink and drive carelessly.
It is a common practice that has worked in developed countries to reduce road carnage and there is no reason why it shouldn’t help to do the same for us.
Just as important is the need to protect tech savvy Barbadians from themselves. A mere observance of our road habits on any given day shows that we need to get serious about safety. Drivers and pedestrians alike have been taking reckless chances with their lives and others with the poor decisions they make whilst on the busy highways and byways.
Trying to drive or walk while texting or chatting away on a cellphone, or wearing earphones is dangerous simply because it is difficult and too risky to safely manoeuvre a vehicle, or walk and focus on messages and conversations at the same time.
There is no room for distractions, whether by cellphones or otherwise, when using our roads.
We hope that the proposed hefty fine should serve as a deterrent.
However, the new laws alone will not get Barbadians to change their road habits, the law must be applied and enforced to be effective. Police must carry out their duties without fear or favour.
But even more important is a rethink of our road habits at an individual level.
Motorists must get over the temptation to speed everywhere and exercise care and caution on our roads. Consideration for other road users and defensive driving with constant appreciation of road conditions, all help avoid mistakes.
Motorists and pedestrians alike must step up their efforts to abide by the law and be wise on the roads.
The time-worn adage – safety first is still the best rule – and we must practise it.